Under a blanket of leaves

By Jang KapgenLex Kleren

Going into the woods, slowing down and experiencing nature with all our senses – that’s what forest bathing is all about. Lëtzebuerger Journal talked to a guide who organises forest baths, a psychologist and an environmental NGO to understand the new trend in its full spiritual, psychological and activist potential.

While a forest bath initially sounds very abstract, it is a very poetic practice of feeling nature with all five senses without distraction and without rush. How often do people actually take the time to relax and to allow these experiences with nature to unfold? During a forest bath, you are encouraged to touch the soil and to feel its texture, to hug a tree and to smell its bark, to stroll around and to hear the sounds of leaves. Forest baths offer the opportunity to slow down our fast-paced lives and reconnect with our roots – or at least the roots underneath our feet. "The people who go with me into nature tell me that they now see the forest with different eyes", as Karen Decker, a professional forest bathing guide and forest guide, certified by Peter Wohllebens Waldakademie, says with conviction.

A treatment with a view

"Forest bathing originated in Japan, " Karen explains, "in the aftermath of the second world war, Japan experienced an economic boom. As especially the tech-industry grew, most employment was offered in the cities and people consequently left the countryside". With this shift towards urbanisation, a rise of mental and physical illnesses became noticeable in Japan. "It is being said, that by lucky coincidence, some researchers went camping in the forests with their friends for a few days. They then noticed the calming effects of this excursion and consequently started looking into the actual health effects of staying in nature." Karen underlines the medical recognition of the benefits of forest bathing in Japan – so to speak, the move back from the city to nature: "Nowadays, forest baths are recognised treatments, which can be prescribed by Japanese doctors to prevent and treat diverse diseases."

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